This story was produced through the City Limits Accountability Reporting Initiative For Youth (CLARIFY), City Limits’ paid training program for aspiring public-interest journalists.
On the corner of Dupont and Franklin Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, there is a deserted property. One block from the East River, it serves as many things: a canyon for songbirds, a wall for playing handball, and the repository for a number of chemical contaminants.
Richard Mazur, the executive director of North Brooklyn Development Corp., has lived in Greenpoint for over 60 years and remembers when the NuHart and Company vinyl and plastics factory, located at 280 Franklin St., opened.
“I was here when they probably first built the factory,” he says. “It was gorgeous because they had all fresh concrete, and it was a great place to play ball because all the lines were drawn evenly.”
Mazur attended the Parish School of Saints Cyril and Methodius less than one block from NuHart.
“Sure, it smelled funny sometimes,” he says. “But we inhaled it.”
The former factory is part of the state’s Superfund program because phthalates and other chemicals were found beneath the property, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. The site is classified by the DEC as a level 2 contamination, meaning it poses “a significant threat to public health and/or the environment and requiring action,” according to the agency’s website.
At the end of November, a developer filed an application to demolish the 10-parcel complex, Department of Buildings records show, and reports that new housing is being planned for the site have reignited concerns from neighbors about how construction could impact the area.
“There will be constant wondering, and worrying, if enough is being done to protect the air quality,” says Heather Milburn, a 41-year-old mother who lives nearby. “[It’s] just steps away from family homes and a very busy playground which my daughter uses frequently.”
City records list the owner of the property as Dupont Street Developers LLC, though the site is expected to be sold to and developed byYoel Goldman of the firm All Year Management, the Real Deal reported in April. On Nov. 27, a representative for the company filed plans with the city to demolish the industrial complex, buildings records show. The same representative filed separate plans in July to build two six-story apartment buildings on two parcels of the site that border Clay Street, according to city records.
Attempts to reach All Year Management for comment were not successful as of press time. But the company has been in communication with local advocates about its plans, according to North Brooklyn Neighbors—formerly known as Neighbors Allied for Good Growth—which has been organizing to ensure responsible decontamination of the site.
The group sent a letter to the developer in June outlining many of their concerns about the project, including worries about dust, noise and the need for regular air monitoring. In August, Yoel Schwimmer, a representative for All Year Management who also filed plans for the location’s demolition and new building permits, responded to the group, reassuring residents that that there will be active air monitoring during decontamination, among other efforts, including holding regular meetings with community members.
“Our goal is to become and remain a good neighbor and to work closely with this wonderful community, elected officials, city and state government agencies and all stakeholders,” Schwimmer wrote, according to to a copy of his letter posted on North Brooklyn Neighbors’ website.
In September, the DEC released a Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) outlining suggested decontamination methods for the industrial complex, a process that’s overseen by the agency’s Division of Environmental Remediation. Anthony Buissereth, executive director at North Brooklyn Neighbors, says he feels reassured by the plan.
“I think that of the options that were presented it’s the best option,” he said at a public meeting the group held in November about the NuHart site. “The important questions have been addressed and raised.”
Concerns about the Franklin Street Superfund site are not new for many Greenpoint residents. In 2015, an electronic music company hosted a Halloween rave in the former factory that got shut down by the FDNY; the NuHart property has also complicated another developer’s plan to build a new school across the street, as some are worried about the future school’s proximity to the contamination, the Greenpoint Post reported in June.